My “Special Collections” Education

by Devin Bostick, Class of 2014

Digitizing Lehigh-Lafayette 100th Game Booklet for a library patron

Since I started working in Special Collections in the fall of 2011, I have gained a great deal of experience related to research for digitization projects, camera imaging and editing in Photoshop, library collection and material organization using Omeka, and library exhibit display and presentation.  Through my experience in Special Collections, I have digitized hundreds of images ranging from book pages to maps and Lehigh alumni photograph albums.  I have had the privilege of seeing up close the progression of Lehigh’s history as related to its campus buildings, student organizations, sports teams, Lehigh/Lafayette games, and graduation and reunion ceremonies.  Towards the end of my Lehigh career and particularly my senior year, I frequently look back with nostalgia at my own experience at Lehigh, and my experiences in Special Collections have affirmed the fulfillment and satisfaction of so many other past Lehigh students shown in its records.   To name a few specifics, I have learned about the scientific and engineering laboratories of Lehigh, famous alumni and their many achievements, the passing of important faculty and the significance of their past work on Lehigh’s future, the work of talented and driven Lehigh doctoral students, Lehigh’s history as recorded through the eyes of the Brown and White, changes to the Epitome and Lehigh’s course catalog over time, and more humorously the extent to which older alumni at class reunions compete with each other for most ridiculous costume by dressing up like astronauts or clowns.  That last one will give me some ideas for Halloween in future years no doubt.

In addition to increasing my appreciation for Lehigh and all it has provided me in terms of education and personal growth, my work at Special Collections has allowed me to learn so much about the effective operation of a high-tech camera and about digital image editing, which can serve me well in the future. I enjoyed learning how to troubleshoot the camera and became an expert on how to operate it when problems occurred. I have also learned how to manage and standardize digitization projects encompassing the collaborative work of several others, create and organize hierarchies and logical progressions for items displayed in Special Collections online exhibits, create folders and holding devices for damaged rare materials, and develop descriptions for the Special Collections physical exhibits and display cases in Linderman Library.

Digitization is finished and the file delivered. Another patron is happy.

Special Collections contains a fascinating plethora of rare and old books, maps, journals, and manuscripts showcasing Lehigh’s history.  It allows students to study original materials first-hand and identify intriguing pieces of history only found through diligent and perceptive research.  I will miss many of the life lessons and experiences I have gained from working in Special collections, and I hope the department can continue on an upward path of growth and expansion for the educational and cultural enrichment of Lehigh University and the broader community.

What is a THATCamp?

THATCamp, short for The Humanities and Technology Camp, is part of the unconference movement.  It is open to anyone with an interest in the Humanities & Technology (both broadly defined).  THATCamps are informal and active- there are no presentations, presenters, or audiences.

But what will we talk about?  That’s the best part!  The participants will decide the agenda the morning of the unconference.  Once accepted to a THATCamp, participants may pose discussion topics that interest them-  usually at the intersection of Humanities and Technology.  The group will vote and set the schedule.  For more information on or examples of  proposals, please visit THATCamp Lehigh Valley.  So come prepared to chat, teach, make, or play on March 1-2, 2013.

In addition to the unconference day, there will also be a series of workshops, which are designed for those with an interest in DH (Digital Humanities).  Workshops are designed as introductions to these tools.  There will be two large group sessions- Introduction to WordPress and Project Management.  Participants will also choose one small group session on Digitization 101, Academic Blogging, Mapping Your World, or Omeka.  For a full description of each of these workshops, please visit, THATCamp Lehigh Valley.

Registration will open Jan. 3, 2012.  It is free to attend with the generous support from Friends of Lehigh Libraries, the Humanities Center, Faculty Development, the College of Arts and Sciences, and with the support of a Core Competencies Grant.

Still a bit unsure about THATCamp, please contact Jessica (jea211) with any questions.  Or check out our copy of Mob Rule Learning by Michelle Boule.  Boule’s work examines the philosophical underpinning of the unconference movement.

In Brief:

Who: Faculty, Students, Cultural Institutions, Archives, Libraries, and Technologists

Where: Lehigh University

When: March 1-2, 2013

Registration: Jan. 3, 2013



Medieval Manuscripts, Monty Python, & Harry Potter at Linderman

People often wonder what relevance Medieval Studies has in today’s world- or at least they ask me what I plan on doing with a degree in Medieval Architectural History.  I think for many the Middle Ages seems like a faraway place that has little influence on their everyday reality.  And yet, if you look for it, it’s there in some appropriated and reinterpreted fashion.

Why do Vikings make an appearance in my home through Capital One commercials? And why choose Vikings to sell credit cards anyway?  Why do several of Lehigh’s academic buildings recall the Ye Olde- what is the legacy of the style?  When one thinks of dark deeds, do they usually occur on a dark and stormy night, set against the backdrop of a castle or ruined cathedral?  Why is the imagery so evocative?  And of course, there is the noble King Arthur & the dream of Camelot or the outlaw hero Robin Hood, whose story was lately retold in the Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe action flick.  There are the tales from our childhood: fairy tales, folk tales, Harry Potter, and Disney princesses- the role of Snow White will be reprised by K.Stew in 2012.   How many of us geek out to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (books, movies, action figures, or Elvish), or most recently HBO’s adaption of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones?

Linderman Library’s 2011 winter exhibit is entitled Being Medieval. The purpose of the exhibit is to question what informs our understanding of the Middle Ages and the idea of Medieval through a juxtaposition of Lehigh University’s medieval and renaissance manuscript collection with later artistic and literary interpretations from the last three hundred years. The manuscripts were last displayed in 1970 by John C. Hirsch, currently at Georgetown University.  Professor Hirsch researched and wrote an exhibit catalogue  entitled Western Manuscripts of the Twelfth through the Sixteenth Centuries in Lehigh University Libraries: A Guide to the Exhibition.  His catalogue remains the authority on Lehigh University Library’s manuscripts and will be included in the online exhibit.

The ground floor exhibit was inspired by Marcus Bull’s work, Thinking Medieval: An Introduction to the Study of the Middle Ages (New York, NY: Plagrave Macmillian, 2005) and a class I took as an undergrad many moons ago at the University of Missouri.  According to Professor Bull, “To ‘think medieval’, in other words, is to ponder what the words ‘Middle Ages’ and ‘medieval’ have come to mean beyond the academic context.  What associations do these terms trigger, and why?” (Bull, Thinking Medieval, 1). He begins his treatise with a discussion of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994). He wonders why Tarantino chose to use the phrase, I’m gonna git medieval on your ass!, to describe the violent torture about to be undertaken in the film (Bull, Thinking Medieval, 10-12).  The other source of inspiration was an interdisciplinary course shared between English and Art History that examined the changing artistic illustrations of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and Dante’s Inferno.  At the time of the course, I was not yet a medievalist; however, the class has always stuck with me and was one of the best classes I took as an undergrad.  We examined these images from the Early Modern Period through the Late 2oth century not simply as a reflection of the texts themselves but also situated in the artistic and cultural periods of the artists.  I’ve assembled a few of them for you in the cases outside Lucy’s cafe.

It begs the question why are certain stories told again and again- why do they continue to resonate with us? The exhibit does not attempt to answer these questions; however, the artifacts assembled allow you to ponder both the questions raised and your own construction of the Middle Ages.  The exhibit will run between November 15, 2011 and February 24, 2012 and will give our community the chance to compare the authentic Ye Olde with later interpretations and inspirations of the Medieval.  Information about tours will be forthcoming.

Alumni Access To ProQuest…Better Than Brownies!

Lehigh is known for her incredibly curious, creative students, and so it is no surprise that for most of our alumni, graduation does not mark the end of their education. Rather, our alumni find themselves just starting on a path of lifelong learning. In addition to The Goose, brazen squirrels, and the rich, chocolately goodness of Lehigh brownies, recent graduates can find themselves also longing for the good old days when they had access to a wealth of books, journals, and library databases. Well, long no more, dear alumni.

While we can’t beam you back to your favorite study nook in Linderman or Fairchild Martindale, we can offer you access to a selection of electronic journals via our alumni subscription to ProQuest’s ABI Inform and Research Library databases. The Library has prepared a guide to show you how to get access to these subscription databases. ProQuest covers a wide variety of topics with scholarly journals in subject areas ranging from business to history to mathematics. Librarian support is also important when doing research, so in the library guide, you will find my contact information. If you have any questions about how to get access to the alumni library resources or even if you just have a tricky research question, please let me know.

While the Library is thrilled to be able to provide ProQuest to our alumni, I would be remiss if I did not mention another great resource available to alumni…your local public library. Here in Pennsylvania, public library card holders have AccessPA’s POWER Library available to them. POWER Library is a state-wide collection of electronic resources available to anyone with a PA library card.  To use POWER Library, patrons click on the POWER Library icon from their local public library’s web site, and enter the barcode number from the back of their library cards into the box provided. Additional database coverage will vary by individual library so make sure to visit your local public library’s web site to see what online resources they offer and for your library’s link to POWER Library. When you visit your public library’s web site, you may be surprised to find out that they also offer downloadable e-books. Again, availability of downloadable e-books will vary by individual library.

So remember, just because you’ve left South Mountain, you still have Lehigh’s Libraries to support you in your lifelong quest for knowledge. And knowledge won’t bring back the freshman 15 like those brownies will!

David Orr, Campus Sustainability, STEPS and the Library

I thought today might be a good day, as spring is in the air and people are wearing green for St. Patty’s day, to talk about some environmental programs at the library.  In the fall, Linderman hosted the exhibit “Environmental STEPS: Environmental Action and Education at Lehigh.”  I noticed students really looking at the walls outside of Lucy’s cafe, which had photos of Lehigh students holding up a white board with an environmental message.  The photos were from our student environmental group, Green Action, who took the pictures as part of a photo-petition to send to our U.S. senators.  They graciously loaned the images for the exhibit, and Lehigh students had a good time seeing their friends up on our library walls.  We also displayed images from the Environmental Photo competition sponsored by Environmental Initiative.  There were some really gorgeous shots, with winners selected during the Earth Day celebration in April 2010.  We showcased materials from Sharon Friedman in journalism, who worked on the media coverage of Three Mile Island; Earth and Environmental Sciences objects and articles; rare and unique items from our Special Collections; and materials from the Wildlands Conservancy, Lehigh Gap Nature Center, and other local environmental groups.  Check out our online exhibit to get a taste of the environmental action here at Lehigh.

On March 31st, David Orr, a nationally recognized environmental educator and advocate for sustainability, will be speaking at Lehigh in celebration of the official dedication of the STEPS building.  David is well known among those in the campus sustainability movement and environmental activism.  His talk, “Black Swans and the Challenge of Resilience,” is on the role of national security and  sustainability on the domestic front.  Join us at 4:10 at the Scheler Humanities Forum (Linderman 200) on March 31st. David will also be signing 2 of his books, sold at a discounted price. David’s talk is sponsored by the Friends of the Lehigh Libraries; Department of Political Science; Environmental Initiative; The Visiting Lecturers Committee; Science, Technology, and Society Program; and the Office of Facilities Services and Campus Planning-Sustainability Coordinator.

Finally, for Lehigh students who want to talk informally with David on campus sustainability, the Science, Technology, and Society Program is sponsoring a FREE lunch at 12 at the Scheler Humanities Forum (Linderman 200) on March 31st.  Register here. Space is limited!

Want to see a snippet of David Orr in action? Watch his “This I Believe”: